Behaviour

My Dog Is Frightened By Fireworks – What Can I Do?

Trent Webb

No dogs really like fireworks. Some can tolerate them, but others are terrified. Nowadays the scares start with Halloween, bonfire “night” lasts a week, and night-time bangs can linger all the way to New Year. So here are a few tips to help keep your dog just that little bit calmer through fireworks night and beyond…

A few weeks before – consider calming products

Do this well in advance as some products need to be in use ahead of the ‘event’, while others can be deployed ‘on the night’. Luckily there is a wide range of non-prescription dog calming and anti-stress products. Select the ones you want to try well ahead of time and test them. This test is both to see if they have the desired effect and so that you’re sure how to use it!

There are pheromone-based products (Adaptil) which emit calming smell signals that make dogs feel safe and protected and come in the plug-in, spray, tablet and collar formats. Milk protein-based products (Zylkene) which are added to food and are intended to foster the sense of protection felt while feeding on mum as a puppy. There is a range of other tablets, gels and liquids, none of which are sedatives, but all just aim to take the edge off any stress.

Calming products can help some (but not all) dogs, so you may need to try more than one product. Remember they are not sedatives
John Campbell, Head Vet of Pet Drugs Online

So have a proper think about which your dog will use or take. If they don’t do tablets then consider drops you can add to their food or a pheromone collar or diffuser? Be sure to read the instructions carefully, as to the doses, frequency and start dates.

Your dog has to be chipped now – it is the law after all. If they’re not chipped, pop down the vets and get it done. It protects your dog and will stop you from being a felon!

6 easy steps to help ease your pet's firework fears this autumn

On the day, but before it gets dark

Take the evening walk far earlier, while it is still light. And remember that the clocks will just have changed, so your gut sense of time may be off.

Even while walking in the light, if you’re in any location where it is possible those with impulse control issues may set off fireworks before nightfall, then keep your dog on its lead. This is restrictive, but far easier than scouring hedgerows yelling “Fenton” as dusk falls.

Check their name tag on their collar is in place, legible and the information up to date.

As it gets dark

Sounds obvious but keep your dog indoors from this point. If possible, try and avoid too many trips to the garden.

Switch on the TV, radio or put a play list on your smart speaker. This background noise may help to muffle the sound of fireworks, but don’t go crazy on the volume, especially if you’re normally a quiet house.

Close the curtains to mask flashes and sparkles.

Build your dog a ‘den’ or hidey-hole. You know where they are likely to head when they get spooked, so make sure that this space is accessible and maybe throw an old item of clothing in there for them – to reassure them you’re close.

They’ll drink more when stressed, so top up their water bowl fully at bedtime.

Stress and behaviour

Dogs display anxiety at the top end by panting, shaking, yawning and drooling. At the back end you’ll notice their tail between their legs.

If they want to pace, let them. The same for whining. It will be annoying, but let them do what they need and don’t chase them around fussing.

Try to keep a calm face on. If your dog is worried the last thing they need to see is a worried owner. This can easily become a negative feedback loop, where you make each other increasingly edgy.

Give lots of praise for calm behaviour. But avoid further negative re-enforcement and by fussing them while they are hiding – as this can manifest itself as a reward for being scared. If they are in their den or behind the sofa, just leave them be.

Adaptil dog calming pheromones can help cope with stressful times - like Bonfire Night

The UTTER just DON’Ts

If you have to nip out for milk or a pizza DO NOT take the dog. Never tie them up outside a shop or leave them alone in the car while fireworks are being let off.

NEVER take your dog to a fireworks display, even if they don’t whimper it doesn’t mean they like it.

Indoor fireworks ARE NOT dog-friendly. Dog will hate the smell and noise. And indoor fireworks are rubbish.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES shout at or chastise your pet for being scared. They will not ‘snap out of it’ and you’ll only be making things far, far scarier for them.

You should discuss any change to your pet’s care or lifestyle thoroughly with your vet before starting any program or treatment.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!